“In vino veritas”
Alcaeus – Ancient Greek Poet
Let me begin by saying I am not a wine drinker. I really don’t know anything about wine. I don’t even like wine. My wife, on the other hand, does. I do know that wine has many properties. Some would say a glass of wine a day promotes better health. In my experience, it promotes powerful headaches. My 10 year old son, on observing a buddy of mine ordering a glass of wine with dinner at the incredible Santorini Greek Kitchen in Indianapolis, Indiana at this past year’s GenCon quipped, “Oh, do men drink wine?” Obviously this is a reflection of dad’s aversion and his mom’s appetite for the stuff. The phrase above, attributed to a number of different sources over the years, is an observation on one of wine’s many side-effects, that of “truth serum.” All of us have either ourselves been a victim of, or seen someone under the influence of wine, speaking freely about something they perhaps would otherwise not have been so honest about. While I am not under the influence as I write this, I have to be honest about something: Viticulture, a game about winemaking, looks pretty “elegant.”
One of my best friends from college, Tom Sessi, is a winemaker. Well, sort of. He calls himself a “négociant,” or someone who assembles wine manufactured by others and sells it under his own label. He has some thoughts about what makes a good wine. One element is mother nature. The quality of the components (grapes, the climate, their hang time, etc.) is critical. The other is the winemaker and their decisions (how long and in what types of container to age the wine in, additives, etc.) His ultimate conclusion to the query: “What’s a great wine? I always say the definition of a great wine is a wine you like! Taste in wine is like taste in almost everything else: subjective. Somebody else may tell you it is a great-tasting wine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to like it.” (I am still waiting on my free bottle. Of course, I probably owe him a few phone calls…)
These qualities apply in equal force to what makes a good game about wine, from my abecedarian aspect. And from what I can see from the makers of Viticulture, they have the spirit and theme of owning your own winery down cold, and have the components and design to prove it. Alan Stone and Jamey Stegmaier are the brains behind Stonemaier Games, whose “lifelong dream has been to publish a strategic (Euro-style) board games.” Congrats boys, you have hit the big time! Their first Kickstarter offering, Viticulture, has more than doubled its funding goal with a day and a half left to go, and a few more stretch goals in sight.
From a town known mostly for its beer, these St. Louisans have refined a very balanced worker placement and resource management style game along the lines of Puerto Rico or Agricola and pressed it into the world of winemaking. Their Kickstarter site runneth over with a number of video-reviews and game play examples, which give a great perspective about their game which looks strategic, fun and highly competitive, without having to be acrimonious.
The PSS staff will be getting together soon in-person to meet-up with the guys behind the game, so we can give it a full review. We wanted to give them a plug before their Kickstarter campaign closes, and also thank them for everything they are doing. They have done more than just make a game for themselves and their contributors. Their website is a great resource to any other entrepreneurs out there about how to do this “make a game thing” right. Their Kickstarter campaign has been frenetic, multi-faceted and multi-media-ed. Their funding levels, stretch goals and visuals are all incredible. From my perspective, these guys have demonstrated what is necessary to get noticed and get funded, a how-to guide that we should all take note of and emulate with our own projects. For that, we truly are indebted to you guys, and I look forward to what is to come from you guys.
Most of all, they appear to have an incredible game on their hands. And let’s face it, while that is usually a very subjective call, much like what makes a good wine, it is pretty obvious, from the contributors they already have, that there is a market out there looking to manufacture some wine with their friends.